Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Giveaway! Mother's Day Gifts from Novica - Win a $50 Gift Certificate!

One of my favorite websites for unique, thoughtful and affordable gifts throughout the year is Novica.com. Novica, in association with National Geographic, connects shoppers with artisans from around the world. The artisans featured on Novica set their own prices and receive fair compensation for their work. Take a look at this video to see exactly how Novica works. 

Novica has a great gift guide that makes selecting that perfect gift even easier. There are so many filters you are guaranteed to find something quickly and easily. And there are so many beautiful and unique items on sale for Mother's Day! Many of the items on Novica are crafted by Moms from around the world - Check out some of their inspiring stories

I love this beautiful soapstone mother owl, who holds a baby owl within. I purchased a similar owl to this on Novica.com a year ago, and it is one of my treasured home decor items.

But I also love the clothing. This Mother's Day, I treated myself to a tunic by Indian designer Isha Jain.

I have a $50 Novica.com giftcode to give away - just in time for some last-minute holiday shopping. Just enter below via Rafflecopter, letting me know your favorite product from Novica's giftfinder

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Disclosure: Special thanks to Novica.com for sponsoring this post.

Monday, April 29, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays Dancing with my Daughter

Beautiful Ballerina
My daughter, age 3, *loves* to dance. She takes ballet and tap lessons, and already has many of the moves down pat (as well as their names in French!). At home, every day, she asks (read: demands) that I play some of her favorite tunes so she can dance. She puts on a tutu or some other costume, and takes over the living room dance floor. While at ballet class she is quite demure, at home, she is a mini Martha Graham/West African dance prodigy.

When I was first pregnant with Chiara, my OB/GYN was unable to detect a heartbeat at my initial visit. He told me to go home and come back in a couple of days, whereupon he'd try again. That night, I went to my usual West African dance class at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I asked my teacher and the drummers to please play some heartbeat-inducing beats that night, and they most certainly followed through! I was determined to get my baby's heart ticking: two days later I heard that first, strong, steady heartbeat of my daughter. It's no wonder that she is a dancer at heart!

 She also always asks (read: forces) me to join her. This is a good thing, as it is awfully hard *not* to have your spirits lifted when you are dancing around with your peppy 3-year-old to some upbeat, girl-power strong music. Here are some of my daughter's current dance party requests.

 Happy Monday!
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Friday, April 26, 2013

Event Recap: My Shot@Life Fundraising Event at Ay Chiwowa!

Last night, over 50 people gathered at Ay Chiwowa! - a fun new restaurant specializing in fine tequila in Chicago - to take some shots... for life.
My goal in planning this fundraiser was to share the Shot@Life movement with others while also raising some money to provide for lifesaving vaccines for children during this World Immunization Week.

I am so proud to have met both goals! 

Over 50 people were in attendance, and I was able to raise over $500 that will all directly benefit Shot@Life. We had wonderful food and service from Ay Chiwowa, and the party space was just perfect. This was officially the first time in my life that I was encouraging people to take shots! (made me feel like a college student again!).

Thanks to everyone who came to the event last night, over 100 babies will be receiving lifetime protection against polio and measles! 

Planning this event was hard work but mostly a lot of fun. I was so happy to see some new and old friends in the crowd, everyone supporting this great cause.

This morning, NPR featured an outstanding report on the global push to eradicate polio for good. Take a moment to listen to it if you haven't already.

If you weren't able to attend the event last night and you'd like to learn more, be sure to visit www.ShotAtLife.org. Also, visit my Team Immunity Page, where you can view the funds raised last night and donate more if you'd like, at http://www.globalproblems-globalsolutions.org/site/TR/Events/ShotLife?px=3096148&pg=personal&fr_id=1080

Giveaway! Mother's Day Movie Night

Here's a fun and inexpensive way to celebrate mom this upcoming Mother's Day:  Pop up a bowl of popcorn, invite over your favorite moms, and watch a classic movie in your jammies. As a working mom, I know that I would relish the chance to have a movie night with my favorite moms, and Mother's Day is the perfect excuse! 

Here's a little giveaway to help you get starting on hosting a Mother's Day Movie Night of your own! I will be giving away a classic movie in Blu-ray (either A Star is Born or Cabaret - randomly selected) to one lucky winner! 

To win, check out the blog app below which includes...

•    Guess-the-Scene Game! - How well do you know the silver screen’s most famous love stories and sing-a-longs? Play the Guess-the-Scene game to test your knowledge on the world’s greatest films! The quicker you pick, the more points you score. Ready? Action!
•    Words in Film! - Select your mood and let quotes and images from film express how you’re feeling!
•    Movie Night Conversation Starters! - Watching a classic flick together is the perfect opportunity to catch up and share stories... this Mother’s Day make it a point to connect with your family and give them a chance to learn something about mom they never knew!  Here are some conversation starters to get you started.

...then enter via rafflecopter below, making sure to share your favorite romance or musical flick from when YOU were a kid in the comments section!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Special thanks to PartnersHub for sponsoring this post. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Mother's Day Gift That Gives Back: Prosperity Candle

Gem of a Woman Gift Set from Prosperity Candle
Looking for a Mother's Day gift that gives back to moms? Prosperity Candle offers beautiful handmade candles manufactured by female entrepreneurs in and from distressed regions of the globe.The Gem of a Woman gift set and the Franjipani tea tin candles make wonderful gifts for moms: The Gem of a Woman set comes with a uniquely scalloped bowl candle and a fair trade summer scarf, both made by underprivileged women from around the globe. The Franjipani tea tin candle is hand-painted by artisans in Kashmir and available in three tea-inspired scents. Best of all, with every candle purchase, Prosperity Candle is able to grow their impact and help additional women participate in a rising tide of prosperity. 

Visit Prosperity Candle today, to learn more about their mission or to purchase a gift for the special mom in your life today. 

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why Shop When You Can Share? Share & Tell with Yerdle and NBCUniversal

Did you know that for every pound of new goods produced, 71 pounds of waste are generated during manufacturing? This Earth Week, NBCUniversal is partnering with the sharing site yerdle to help you minimize your impact on the planet by sharing your stuff. One person’s stuff is another person’s story!

Here’s how it works. 
1) Join or host a Share & Tell Party (click the “Join the Party” button in the app below).
2) Post your stuff to share with friends. Discover other items that are up for grabs. 
3) Tell the story of your sharing experiences on your favorite social media site. #ShareandTell.

Check out the app below to learn more about greening up your life, including: 

• How Are You Green? (Eco Quiz) It’s not easy being green…(or is it?) We all want to take better care of our environment and go green, but the question is... How are YOU Green? Take the Eco quiz to find out!
• 7 Easy Ways to Start Sharing Now Now, more than ever, sharing makes sense. Getting started sharing is simpler than you think! Read these 7 easy ways to start sharing now and create healthier, happier families and communities.
• Real Life Share and Tell Stories Read real life stories of how sharing on yerdle has helped people just like you get the stuff they need - without buying a thing!
• Get Social Tweet with the #ShareandTell hashtag to get your audience excited about NBC’s Share and Tell!

Disclosure: The post is sponsored by Parntershub. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Vote Now for Your Favorite Teacher in the Hilton HHonors Teacher Treks Travel Grant Competition!

       Who was your favorite teacher?

       My favorite teacher was my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Edgebrooke. I remember distinctly my first day of kindergarten, when she greeted us at the door with puppets. Filled with enthusiasm, Ms. Edgebrooke made learning seem like an adventure: we hosted a circus that first year of school, learned to square dance, and traveled the world through the many books that she read to us all during circle time. I loved to read before kindergarten began, but Ms. Edgebrooke reinforced my love for reading, and sparked my interest in perhaps becoming a teacher myself someday. 

I    Today I'm a writer, a mom, and a teacher too! And of all the hats I wear in my life, teaching is one of the toughest. Over 100 kids pass through my classroom each day, and not only do I find myself teaching them the course content, I also sometimes find myself filling the role of mentor, counselor, disciplinarian, and sometimes even Mom. I teach at what many might consider a "rough" urban high school, and some of my students live in group homes and don't have a Mom reminding them to stay on track and praising them for a job well done. Despite the challenges, however, I love my job, and I love my students: they make me laugh and they keep me young and I love sharing my enthusiasm for learning with my students.

Every teacher, however, needs a break, and I'm so excited to share with you the Teacher Treks Travel Grant Competition. Hilton HHonors, the loyalty program for Hilton Worldwide’s 10 distinct hotel brands, has just announced the 30 finalists of this amazing program: 15 teachers will be given the chance to travel and to experience first-hand the subject they teach...around the world! Hilton HHonors developed the program in partnership with the Institute of International Education (IIE), a world leader in the international exchange (and administrator of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship). The program is part of Hilton Worldwide’s Travel with Purpose™ commitment to celebrating cultures and the power of travel to build stronger communities. 

A panel of judges, including K-12 teachers and other education experts selected by IIE, narrowed the competition down to 30 finalists from 20 different states. Now through April 30, 2013, the public can vote for their favorite finalist at www.hhonors.com/TeacherTreks to help determine the 15 winning entries.15 winners will receive a grant valued at $6,000 to travel to a destination of their choice; in addition to the trip, each winning teachers’ school will also receive a $2,500 grant to use for cultural activities or enhancements.

Individuals can cast one vote per day during the duration of the voting period. For more information on the 30 finalists, voting or for full Terms and Conditions, visit www.hhonors.com/TeacherTreks today!  

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Hilton HHonors. All opinions are my own. 

Shot@Life #BirthdayBash: My interview with Anastasia Dellaccio

It's officially World Immunization Week, and Shot@Life, the UN Foundation organization that I am proud to be a part of, is hosting a #birthdaybash! Shot@Life Champions have been paired with one other as part of a getting-to-know-you mixer, and I've had the pleasure of connecting with Anastasia Dellaccio, a blogger, co-owner of Dolci Gelati, UN communications representative, and mom of two beautiful kids. 

As an official gelato connisseur, I was salivating over Dolci Gelati's flavor selections. I am counting on Anastasia to bring me some Mimosa (orange and champagne!) sorbetto when Dolci Gelati expands to Chicago ;)


Where are you from and tell me a bit about your family?  
I am originally from Philadelphia but have been in Washington, DC for quite a while now.  My husband, Gianluigi is from Napoli, Italy and is a Pastry Chef/Culinary genius.  Gianluigi and I were introduced by a mutual friend and he won my heart when he made me a box of homemade chocolates on our second date.  Around the time we were married, the two of us opened Dolci Gelati together, an artisan, all natural gelato company.  Since then the company has grown so much!  We started out on the back of a vespa dropping samples at restaurants and now we have a store in Takoma Park, MD, carts at the National’s Ballpark and we sell to Whole Foods and other markets and restaurants throughout the area.

In addition to co-owning Dolci Gelati, I do outreach and communications for the United Nations Foundation which is basically my dream job.  I love what I do and that I get to go to work every day and help people around the world through communicating about and supporting the work of the United Nations.

In addition, I have the two cutest Philanthro-tots in the world, Gianluca, 3 ½ and Valentina 5.

Why did you decide to become/what inspired you to become a Shot@Life Champion?  
Out of all of the programs and campaigns we have at the United Nations Foundation, Shot@Life from the outset was the one that really touched my heart.  Living in America with two kids we have all of the luxuries and comforts and something like vaccines is so common we don’t even think of the repercussions that would happen if something so simple was just not available.  Mothers around the world are just like me however the struggle and stresses they go through, just to insure that they can get basic vaccines for their children is unimaginable.  Even though I work at the UN Foundation and can help the campaign to strategize and communicate, as a Mom I wanted to do more and become more involved.  I hope that I can use my status as a UN Foundation communications representative, as a  business owner and as a digitally connected mom to spread the word about the importance and effectiveness of childhood vaccines around the world.

What is your favorite Shot@Life slogan??? 
My favorite is a shot at learning to read, Valentina’s is a shot at eating ice cream and Gianluca’s is a shot at playing with trains.

Thanks, Anastasia, it was great learning a bit more about you - let's me up for a gelato the next time I'm in DC!
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In honor of World Immunization Week, I am proud to host Shots for Life at ¡AY CHIWOWA!: A UN Foundation Shot@Life fundraiser featuring cocktails, appetizers, and shots of tequila... for life!
Enjoy margheritas, appetizers, and over 80 types of tequila from around the world at one of Chicago's hottest new restaurants - !Ay Chiwowa! (run by the Rockit partners behind Sunda) .... and each shot of tequila as well as each event ticket purchased will protect a child from polio for his/her lifetime through the UN Foundation's Shot@Life Movement.  

Tickets may be purchased via this eventbrite invite: http://shotatlifechicago.eventbrite.com/

See you on Thursday, April 25th at 6pm!

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Back from the Happiest Place on Earth

We returned back to reality, from the happiest place on Earth, a couple of days ago, and it's been go - go - go ever since.

We were in Disney World - still one of my favorite places in the world. I remember visiting as a little girl, and it is still magical to me: this time around, as a parent, I see the magic though my children's eyes - and it's just as delightful. As we walked into the Magic Kingdom on our very first day, towards the park, my daughter could barely contain herself. She spotted Cinderella's castle and just squealed with happiness. Even my son had his beaming smile plastered on his face throughout the trip.

This trip was even more delightful because my parents, as well as my sister and her family, joined us. We laughed until we cried, we screamed on the roller coasters together and roamed around the parks, making memories along the way. We had breakfast with Winnie the Pooh, we checked into the Tower of Terror, we   swam in the volcano pool, we watched the fireworks over Cinderella's castle.

I remember how fun it was to travel with my cousins as a child, and now my kids, too, were having a blast with their cousins by their side. While Chiara at age 3 is years apart from her only girl cousin, Ashley, age 14, Chiara looks up to Ashley and in return, Chiara gives Ashley an excuse to hang on to the fun of little girlhood just a little bit longer.( My son and his cousin are just FOUR days apart and are pretty much twins - my sister and I couldn't have planned it better - and we didn't plan it at all!).

We stayed at the Polynesian Village, one of my favorite hotels in the world. Chiara was simply obsessed with the Tiki decor. Every evening, before we returned to our room for the night, she insisted on visiting this Tiki guy, who smiled from his rooftop.
I love stepping into the lobby of the Polynesian, where the smell of gardenias hits you as soon as you enter. When we weren't exploring the parks, we were swimming at the Polynesian's pool or playing on the beach. Daniel finally had a chance to rent a mini motor boat and rode with his cousin around the Seven Seas Lagoon (I think that was one of the main highlights of the trip for him!).

Daniel's favorite ride this year was Expedition Everest. Chiara's favorite ride was Winnie the Pooh (she was obsessed with the thunderstorm and Pooh's bad dream and the moving honey pots). Our favorite dining experience was at the New Fantasyland's Be Our Guest restaurant in the Beast's Castle: Chiara even met with the Beast himself in his library. Chiara loved meeting the characters, especially Cinderella and Prince Charming. I think Daniel was pretty delighted to meet Cinderella, too.

Then thanks to the American Airlines computer system breaking down, we were stuck in Orlando an extra day. We were saddened to learn of the tragedy in Boston as well. Back to reality it was.

Yesterday Daniel got braces (and he looks a few years old with them on somehow).  Chiara has pretended yesterday and today that she is going to Orlando by packing up her little suitcase yet again. I can't blame her - the weather here in Chicago stinks.

I'm happy for the many Disney moments celebrated with our entire family, and so thankful to have gathered so many laughs and giggles together with my kids.

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The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy

It's that time of year again - time to shed those extra winter pounds and get ready for swimsuit season! When MommyParties asked me to host a Fast Metabolism Diet get-together, I was hesitant: I don't believe in dieting, but I do believe in maintaining a healthy diet, and lightening things up a bit in the spring. The Fast Metabolism Diet, as explained in a new book by Haylie Pomroy, fits my anti-dieting stance, despite the title:  it offers useful information and a plan for recharging and reprogramming your regular, healthy diet. 
Author Haylie Pomroy has spent more than 17 years helping people transform their diets. With clinic locations in Beverly Hills, Burbank and Irvine, and Fort Collins, she has a Hollywood-style client list, including celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon and Cher. She's also a registered wellness consultant and certified holistic counselor.

And so I chose some of Haylie's recipes and invited some of my friends and family over to take a look and test out some new appetizers and dishes. I chose recipes from all phases of the three phase plan. (Here's a little bit more about the science behind it all). 

Seedless watermelon make this recipe even easier
My favorite recipe of all were the amazingly refreshing Watermelon Smoothies.  Easy to prep and just four ingredients - this will be my new summer drink.  I pureed frozen watermelon cubes with lime juice, a few drops peppermint extract, and I garnished with a mint leaf. Voila!

As an entree, I made the chili recipe from Phase 1 in my slow cooker. I used organic beans (it calls for a wide variety!) - and I found it very filling and tasty.  

We all shared our spring health resolutions, trying to keep the focus on the positive. My resolution is to continue riding my bike to work as long as the weather agrees, and to keep up with my weekly Yin Yoga. 

Check out the Fast Metabolism app, which promises to make this healthy eating plan even easier to follow, and check out Haylie's blog for some great health ideas, including some yummy recipes. 

 Disclaimer:  Special thanks to Mommy Parties for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays Call the Midwife

Every once in awhile, I am assigned to check in on a CPS high school student that has recently had a baby and is therefore "on homebound." I love visiting these new moms: it gives me a chance to provide some encouragement and help the new teen mom get back on track in school...and I get to cuddle adorable  babies! It truly is wonderful to be able to cuddle a sweet newborn (and then be able to hand them back to mom and go home to relative peace and quiet!). Sadly, not all have the support to continue their schooling, which breaks my heart, but more often than not I happily see these young women return to school and pursue their educations against so many odds, as their babies grow into toddlers and school kids.

In another lifetime, I would have chosen to be a midwife, so I could support new moms on a full time basis (or I'd even return to school if I had the time and support!). Instead, I live vicariously through the midwives on the delightful BBC miniseries Call the Midwife. As I was riding my vintage bicycle through Logan Square, my navy blue trench coat cinched around my waist, to visit a student and her newborn last Friday, it hit me: I relate to Jenny, the main character and the narrator of the series (the entire series consists of Jenny reminiscing about her experience as a midwife on the East End of London in the 1950's) as I ride my bike and check in on the new moms...
I'm not birthing babies, but I am riding my bike and visiting moms and
newborns. Close enough for me! :)

If you haven't seen Call the Midwife, promise me you'll check it out. At least for me, it's almost a relief to see a series that focuses on a group of working women that truly are agents of change and inspiration. Many episodes are available online, and you can always watch it on your local PBS station. Let me know what you think!

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Join me for margaritas at Shots for Life at ¡AY CHIWOWA!: A UN Foundation Shot@Life fundraiser

In honor of World Immunization Week, I am proud to host Shots for Life at ¡AY CHIWOWA!: A UN Foundation Shot@Life fundraiser featuring cocktails, appetizers, and shots of tequila... for life!

Enjoy margheritas, appetizers, and over 80 types of tequila from around the world at one of Chicago's hottest new restaurants - !Ay Chiwowa! (run by the Rockit partners behind Sunda) .... and each shot of tequila as well as each event ticket purchased will protect a child from polio for his/her lifetime through the UN Foundation's Shot@Life Movement.  

Tickets may be purchased via this eventbrite invite: http://shotatlifechicago.eventbrite.com/

See you on Thursday, April 25th at 6pm!

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Monday, April 1, 2013

#MakesMeSmileMondays Schools Murals in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

I was in Mexico last week, on the Isla Mujeres with two of my very best friends from way back when I lived in Italy. Every day, when we walked into town from our beachside hotel, we passed by a schoolhouse. I love the colorful murals painted on the walls surrounding the school's playlot. Messages to live by!

Be kind to your classmates.


Above all: Be Happy!
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